From Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising,

If there was anything Alekseyev didn’t need now it was a zampolit!

Exactly a week ago, I had one of those days here at the lab. Of course, to me “one of those days” is everyday for a lot of people with high pressure jobs, yet because this is not the norm I’m quite unaccustomed to them.

Going in that morning I knew it was going to be a doozy, given the fact that I had a full day’s worth of work in the pipe, and that’s OK, that’s what I get paid for and honestly, I enjoy the investigative nature of my work.

What, of course, cannot be predicted are the situations that come up, or spring up that distract one from achieving one’s objectives.

For example, as I sat there elbow-deep in the work cited above, the bane of every busy research assistant’s existence needed a few moments of my time: the life science sales rep.

Immediately, my mind went to the sentiment of Clancy’s fictional Soviet general regarding the political officer (KGB) who had interrupted his work. The rep had become my zampolit, a good man with good intentions but choosing the wrong time to offer potentially helpful, though irrelevant to the task at hand, information.

What must go without saying is that even at the height of our diligence, the rules of charity cannot be thrown out the window. So I was polite to the rep’s entreaties (hard not to do since after all, he is a nice guy) yet my preoccupation with leaving work at a decent hour must have been evident on my face, thus he shortened his pitch.

As for a fellow research assistant who (on this fine day) needed help on how to use a new (for her) piece of equipment, being charitable was a bit more difficult.  Given the fact that while asking for instruction, she wanted to be the instructor.  Ironically enough this dear woman hails from the former Soviet Union, might she have received training to be a zampolit?  Perhaps she came from a line of zampolits?